2009-09-13

The Endpoint

Throughout history, human beings have imagined superior beings and told stories about superhuman figures.
 
In some religions, saints and holy men were admired for their superior ethical life; some were considered to have superhuman powers. Sometimes philosophers, sages, and wise men were admired and worshiped long after they died. Some of the gods of antiquity were noteworthy human beings who were deified after their deaths.
 
When people imagined the gods, they often imagined beings with qualities or attributes which they felt were good, useful, and admirable. They imagined the gods to be better than humans, and thus in some sense, to be ideals for human beings, what human beings should be.
 
The monotheistic religions envisioned their one god as having infinitely superior characteristics, surpassing what could be imagined or grasped by reason. Christian theologians developed an idea of God that included the characteristics of omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, eternity, and omnibenevolence (wishing well to all).
 
What we can learn from this is that it has been long believed that humans are not the pinnacle of being, that there can be greater beings, with more admirable characteristics. Humans have worshiped the gods or enlightened sages and attempted to imitate them.
 
Mystics of all religions taught that one could unify with God by adequately preparing one's mind and character. In Hinduism, the word "yoga" refers to unification with the divine. The Shramana movement in India taught that individuals should seek to attain a superhuman state.
 
An early Christian writer wrote, "You may participate in the divine nature" (2 Peter). Early Christian theologians wrote about theosis, or deification; for example, one said, "humans would become gods," (Athanasius On the Incarnation 54:3, PG 25:192B) and another wrote of the "sure warrant for looking forward with hope to deification of human nature." (Maximus the Confessor page 178 PHILOKALIA Volume II)
 
So we learn that since the beginning of time, human beings have imagined something greater than themselves; they have not thought of human beings in their current form and condition as the pinnacle of possible being. Instead, humanity has imagined superior beings, and all religions have explored the ways in which human beings might become more like these superior beings.
 
There is wisdom in this. Humans in their current form and condition are not the end-point of evolution on Earth; the human condition and human nature need to be uplifted. We need to properly envision what is higher and then strive to accommodate our nature and condition to this image of the divine. We must strive, all of us, ultimately, to become divine.

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